Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training on Psychological Well-Being of Patients Suffering from Breast Cancer

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Positive Psychology

Effectiveness of Mindfulness Training on Psychological Well-Being of Patients Suffering from Breast Cancer

Article excerpt

There can be little doubt that in most people a diagnosis of cancer evokes a dread which is greater than other diseases carrying equally serious and worse prognosis (McIntosh, 1974). Despite so much progress in treatment, for many people the word cancer suggests a wild, uncontrolled proliferation of cells that would lead to painful and slow death. The initial reaction to the diagnosis, as Greer (1985) noted, is to view the cancer diagnosis as a catastrophic threat leading to death. The period after the diagnosis is marked by confusion and a chaotic jumble of thoughts and feelings. Numbness of emotions is also very common. From a cognitive perspective this is the result of core beliefs about the self, the world and the future being challenged. According to the study of Lazarus and Folkman (1984), an important factor of any given patient's psychological response to cancer is how the threat of the disease is appraised (perceived) together with the particular coping skill that the person can use to reduce the threat.

Patients suffering from cancer are in a great physical as well as psychological turmoil caused by the distressing and painful symptoms and the bitter side-effects of the treatment procedures (Iverson, 1993). On being diagnosed with cancer what remains uppermost in their mind is a sense of loss and hopelessness. So diagnosis of cancer is one great source of stress. On the other hand, keeping individual differences in mind, it is quite obvious to say that all do not respond in the same fashion to the same stress-event. Cognitive model of adjustment and coping, all assume that it is the interpretations, that we make about stressful situations that determine how we respond to them (Folkman & Greer, 2000).

The negative consequences brought by cancer diagnosis are shown in the following diagram.

The reality of breast cancer

In women, breast cancer and cervical cancer are the two most common types of cancer, while breast cancer being the major cause of mortality (World Health Organization, February, 2006). "In India, breast cancer accounts for 11% cancer related diseases and is prevalent among urban women. Over 80,000 new cases of breast cancer are reported every year in India. The incident is steadily rising and posing a great threat" (Sharma, 2001). Cancer diagnosis of any type evokes fear and dread, but for women, a diagnosis of breast cancer is an especially devastating emotional experience (Shapiro et al., 2001 ; Stark & House, 2000).

The treatment procedures of cancer include chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. All of these have negative side effects on the patient. In most of cases due to treatment surgery, the women are left with no breast or single breast. These lead to distorted body image and sexual dissatisfaction, which reduces the global wellbeing of the patients. The emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis and the rigors of cancer treatment adversely affect quality of life (QOL) and this may persist beyond treatment (Longman et al., 1999). Evidence demonstrates that psychosocial variables during diagnosis and treatment are key predictors of both short-term and long-term quality of life (Carver et al., 2005) and emphasize the importance of early psychosocial intervention for individuals diagnosed with cancer. The side effects of treatment and the enduring morbidity in each of these domains also include anger, guilt, depression and sadness, anxiety and fear of recurrence, fatigue, weight gain, pain, nausea and vomiting and also problems with social and sexual functioning. So, being diagnosed with cancerfor a womaninvolves her ability to adjust with not only the demands of both hospital environments and demands of family environments but also with the demands of wider social reality, after overcoming the intra-psychic conflicts.

The field of psychology is spreading its wings into many related fields, over the last few years. The advantage of assessing and modifying human behavior has led to significant improvements in many facets of life. …

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